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How Much Money Do NFL Referees Make?

Being a referee is not an easy job. Although it’s expected by everyone that every call a referee makes should be done with 100% accuracy, they do not have the ability to make slow-motion replays and close-up camera angles. Therefore, given that it’s a job that takes a lot of effort, how much do NFL refs make? As of now, it increased from their previous annual salary of $56,000 to $205,000. 

It happened after a series of lockouts and protests. The NFL and the Referees Association finally made an agreement to give all game officials higher compensation. It still varies depending on role and seniority, most of which earn a considerable amount. 

Aside from the base salary, NFL referees will also earn a considerable pension plan.[1] This plan will also be converted to 401(k) programs in the near future.

Key Takeaways

  • Despite no official information on NFL referee salaries, it was reported that NFL referees make an average of $205,000 per year. Additionally, they also receive bonuses of up to $50,000 for working in big games like the Super Bowl.
  • In contrast to common belief, NFL referee is actually a part-time job with no insurance benefits. However, they do have a 401k plan with a partial matching contribution.

Why Does the NFL Pay So Much?

If we talk about a corporate business, we all know that salesmen are often compensated for the amount of revenue they generate. So each and everyone in the NFL plays a role in selling both products and the league, which makes them salesmen. 

The National Football League is not only known for being a national sports provider but for being a good business as well. They make money because of their games, players, and officials. These people make the league a success. 

The value of the league keeps increasing because everyone involved earns celebrity status, and media access, and is now getting paid additional money for brand promotion.

In conclusion, NFL players and officials are compensated according to the billions of revenue they generate. 

Requirements for NFL Referees

If you’re planning to be an NFL referee, there are a few major requirements you should take note of. The NFL’s mandatory qualification is for every applicant to have an extensive experience on the field. Below is the list of requirements that need to be met by those who are qualified.


Although working as a referee doesn’t require any specific education, it’s generally expected for applicants to have at least a bachelor’s degree in any major. Those with a major in Sports Health, Sports Management, or any related field are more prepared for the role, which gives them an upper hand in getting accepted. 


To be considered, applicants must strictly meet this requirement. Anyone interested in applying for the NFL referee role must have a 10-year experience of officiating in football games, at least five years of which should include major college games. 

Good health

It’s a given that referees must have good physical health. This is a demanding role that requires an individual to be on their feet for long periods of time and often running. Most often, those who have experience as football players or coaches get more chances of being a referee as they are more prepared for the role.

How to Become an NFL Referee?

It takes a lot of time and experience to be part of the National Football League as a referee. The NFL is strict about its requirements and only accepts those with years of experience, advanced knowledge of the game, and open schedules. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to become an NFL referee:

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

Most NFL referees have at least a bachelor’s degree in any field even though it’s not a major requirement. So to have a greater chance of getting accepted for the role, earn a sports-related degree. 

2. Acquire training

You can acquire training in colleges, officiating organizations, and third-party training schools that offer programs to give you a deeper understanding of rules and gameplay. You will also learn specific lessons on ethics, good sportsmanship, expectations and practices of referees, as well as interacting with coaches on the field.

3. Get a state registration

Once you’re done with training, you can easily qualify for the written exam, which is included in the process of state registration. 

4. Gain experience

After registration and getting proper training & education, you can finally gain some experience in the field. Most referees usually begin at the high school level and later on move forward to colleges or leagues when they gain enough credibility or connections. 

5. Earn certification

All additional credentials are taken into consideration even though it is not a major requirement. You can easily earn one by attending special training sessions.

6. Get noticed

Of course, getting noticed is one of the tricks into getting involved in the league. When considering certain applicants, the NFL checks the frequency of the applicant’s work, together with their officiating schedule for the past three seasons. This includes schools, dates, game locations, and positions worked.

Final Words 

Being an NFL referee may seem grueling and unrewarding because of the fans, coaches, media, and players that will dislike you along the way, but the salary makes up for it somehow. The good thing is, if you know and apply an entire rulebook in every play, you can call yourself a successful referee no matter what other people say. 

Do you think the salary is worth every referee’s efforts? What can you say about the referee’s job? Are you interested in becoming one? If you have anything to share, just leave a comment below. 

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might also like to read about how much NFL water boys earn, or how much NFL mascots and cheerleaders make.

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